WEST HAVEN, June 9 – It doesn’t take long for things to change in the state tournament. One moment you have a runner on third base with one out, you’re thinking of a go-ahead run and perhaps that elusive berth in the state championship game.
Then, the batter pops the ball into shallow left field and the shortstop makes a spectacular, diving catch. But the runner, who scores what could be the go-ahead run, is called out for leaving the base too early. Inning over. That’s a serious punch to take.
Tied 1-1, defending Class S champion Holy Cross came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning after a tough ending for East Granby in the top half of the eighth. With a quick swing of the bat and a great bunt, it was over.
Holy Cross’ Allie Brown led off the inning with a triple to right field and the Cross fans were cheering. They roared when pitcher Sarah Lawton laid down a suicide squeeze bunt and Brown scampered home with the game-winning run in a 2-1 decision in eight innings over East Granby in the Class S semifinal Thursday at West Haven.
The victory puts top-ranked Cross (23-3) back into the championship game for the second straight year where they will face No. 6 Notre Dame-Fairfield in the final. Notre Dame outlasted Stafford, 8-7 in the other semifinal.
Meanwhile, East Granby (21-5) goes home having come so close. It was the second consecutive season that East Granby fell to Holy Cross in the semifinals. A year ago, it was a 2-0 decision. This year, it was a heart breaker.
No. 4 East Granby, the NCCC Tournament champion, hasn’t exactly been scoring at will but they’ve done enough to get to the semifinal.
They beat Sacred Heart, 5-1 in their opening contest and outlasted No. 20 Hale-Ray, 1-0 in the second round as Val Winalski scampered home from third base in the bottom of the seventh inning after an attempted pickoff throw was too high. East Granby had 12 hits in the win. In the quarterfinals, East Granby outlasted NCCC rival Somers, 2-0 as pitcher Genna Hartman struck out 11 and allowed just five hits.
East Granby took advantage of an error to grab a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
With one out, Kaelyn Ludwig singled to center field and took second on a passed ball. Winalski struck out but when the catcher dropped the ball on the third strike, Winalski took off for first base. On the throw to first, Ludwig advanced to third base. Ludwig scored on an error to give East Granby the early lead.
Holy Cross tied the game in the fifth. Becca Anderson singled to center field and moved to second on a successful sacrifice. Anderson scored on Hannah Brown’s RBI single to right field that just slipped between East Granby first baseman Lily McCarthy and second baseman Ashley Barry.
Holy Cross threatened to take the lead in the sixth. They had runners on first and second base with one out thanks to a single and a walk. But East Granby’s Hartmann got Val Nobrega to pop out in foul territory to Ludwig. Then, Hartmann got Nicole Strielkauskas to strike out looking to end the inning.
Hartmann scattered eight hits and struck out six for East Granby.
In the eighth inning, Hartmann led off the inning for East Granby with a hard ground ball single to center field. She moved to second base on a successful sacrifice from Ludwig. Hartmann moved to third on a fielder’s choice – a hard ground ball off the bat of Winalski.
But the inning was over quickly when Lily McCarthy popped up to shallow left field. Holy Cross shortstop Allie Brown made a diving catch. Hartmann waited at third base and raced home to score. But she was called out for leaving third too early.
Video taken by the Republican American newspaper out of Waterbury appears to show that Hartmann didn’t leave early. That was a tough break for East Granby but that had nothing to do with the bottom of the eighth when Holy Cross had two clutch hits to win the contest.
Ludwig was 2-for-3 for East Granby while Becca Anderson and Alexandra Lombardo were 2-for-3 for Holy Cross. Hannah Brown was 2-for-4 for the winners.
Holy Cross 2, East Granby 1 (8)
At West Haven
East Granby (21-5) 100 000 00 – 1-6-0
Holy Cross (23-3) 000 010 01 – 2-8-2
Genna Hartmann and Kaelyn Ludwig; Sarah Lawton and unavailable; WP: Lawton; LP: Hartmann; 3B – Allie Brown (HC)